This General Assembly session — Jan. 13–March 1— was distinctive in type and substance. Public remark throughout committee hearings was taken solely nearly. On plenty of events, alternatives to testify for or towards laws have been denied or restricted significantly. Due to strict invoice submitting caps, legislators made cautious selections about which measures to suggest in 2021 and which of them to save lots of for a future yr, and committees addressed far fewer payments than in prior years. Nevertheless, the implications of this yr’s session have been undeniably far-reaching.
Abortion protection growth. Numerous longstanding protections for the unborn and pregnant girls have been dismantled through the 2020 session, and the erosion of life-affirming legal guidelines continued in 2021. Legislation enacted this yr removes abortion protection restrictions for plans taking part in Virginia’s medical insurance alternate. The alternate is a digital market created beneath the federal Affordable Care Act by way of which an estimated 240,000 Virginians purchase their well being plans. Beginning July 1 of this yr, exchange-participating plans — a lot of that are sponsored with taxpayers’ cash — might be allowed to cowl abortion with out limits.
Death penalty repeal. Historically, extra executions have been carried out in Virginia than in another state within the nation’s historical past. Transformational laws enacted this yr, nonetheless, makes Virginia the primary southern state and the twenty third nationally to finish its loss of life penalty.
Marijuana commercialization. Enacted laws creates the framework for a business marketplace for marijuana in Virginia, with retail gross sales to these 21 and older permitted starting Jan. 1, 2024. The laws additionally fast-tracks authorized possession and residential cultivation of marijuana, permitting these 21 and older to own as much as one ounce and permitting “households” to home-grow as much as 4 vegetation starting July 1 of this yr.
Repeal of genetic counselor conscience protections. A legislation in place since 2014 ensures that Virginia legislation doesn’t “require any genetic counselor to participate in counseling that conflicts with their deeply-held moral or religious beliefs.” Though these conscience protections obtained overwhelming bipartisan help once they have been permitted seven years in the past, they have been repealed this session and might be erased from legislation starting July 1 of this yr.
First step towards Virginia’s Marriage Amendment. Virginia’s structure defines marriage because the union of 1 man and one girl — a definition permitted by Virginia voters in November 2006. This yr, nonetheless, a decision to take away this provision from Virginia’s structure, and to switch it with language to “recognize marriages … regardless of the sex or gender of the parties to the marriage,” handed the General Assembly. If the decision passes once more subsequent yr, it can seem on the poll in November 2022.
What didn’t go?
Repeal of adoption conscience protections. For the second consecutive yr, laws sought to finish a conscience legislation that ensures Catholic Charities and different faith-based adoption and foster care businesses can present providers in step with their beliefs. This yr, the House handed the invoice, and a Senate committee then permitted an amended model of it. The full Senate, nonetheless, despatched the extremely contentious measure again to the committee, the place it died when no additional motion was taken.
Parental consent. Legislation prohibiting state and native well being officers from initiating communication with minors about sex-related matters with out parental consent handed the Senate by one vote earlier than being defeated in a House committee. The invoice was launched in response to a earlier Virginia Department of Health (DoH) initiative (the “BrdsNBz” program) encouraging children and youths to textual content questions on intercourse, relationships and contraception to a “sexual health textline.”
Repeal of minimal wage exemption for farm staff. Last yr, the General Assembly raised Virginia’s minimal wage, however the invoice didn’t apply to agricultural staff. Legislation launched this yr to incorporate farm staff handed the House however was defeated in a Senate committee.
How did your legislators vote?
View the total VCC vote report. Look for the “See how your legislators voted” banner at vacatholic.org.